Michigan restaurants cautious but optimistic about vaccination-based reopening plan

Vaccination thresholds will trigger loosening of certain restrictions

DETROIT – State officials outlined four vaccination goals Thursday that will trigger the loosening of certain COVID-19 restrictions.

MORE: Here are the Michigan COVID restrictions that will be lifted when we reach 4 vaccine goals

Michigan restaurants have been put through the ringer throughout the pandemic. The industry as a whole has seen the rules change multiple times over the past year and that’s made for a lot of anxiety, frustration and sometimes animosity. After Thursday’s announcement, there was a new, more hopeful tone.

April 29, 2021: Michigan coronavirus cases up to 837,514; Death toll now at 17,576

At Vicente Cuban Cuisine on Library Street, general manager Shanna Macheske is anxious.

“It’s been really hard,” Macheske said. “We want to bring our salsa nights back. We want to serve people and we love this business.”

According to the new plan, two weeks after Michigan gets to 60% vaccinated, the curfew around restaurants can be lifted. At 64% and two weeks, all indoor restrictions can be lifted.

“Just another hurdle we got to get to,” Macheske said. “But it’s frustrating because we’re all ready to like just go back to normal.”

“I think we’re all moving, starting to move in one direction and on the same page,” said Justin Winslow. “Going forward, and that’s a good sign for all of us.”

Winslow is the president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant And Lodging Association, which -- at times -- has been at odds with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and COVID restrictions. He said they’ve been working with the Governor’s Office and is happy with the new plan.

“I’m actually appreciative that there’s more carrot and less stick,” Winslow said. “This is an opportunity that says there are great things ahead of you, you need to do your part to make a better society, a better environment, a safer environment for all of us.”

“Get vaccinated, because the quicker we all do it, the quicker we can all get back to normal,” Macheske said. “If that’s going to be 65%, like, hurry up everybody!”

The reopening plans also comes just ahead of wedding season, something the Association pointed out. They are hoping for the sake of event spaces and larger venues that the vaccination happens quickly, because hospitality spaces have suffered too.

There are concerns that the pace of vaccination might be too slow. Even with money from the state and federal governments, some of restaurants may never reopen again.


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